Tag: French grammar

A journey into the wonders of French

Two blog posts for the price of one today! Both the authors – Artie first, then Julian – are very much caught up in the current Covid-context so there are some thoughts here on the immediate impacts that is having on the lives of recent(-ish) Languages graduates. However, both have also been kind enough to reflect on their lives and career paths since graduation, with plenty of food for thought for anyone reading this and wondering where a degree involving a language might lead them… First, it’s Artie’s turn:

‘My journey into the wonders (and confusions at the many same-sound endings) of French language learning began with my studies at the University of Stirling in September 2012 with a degree in French and Spanish. I began the degree with a beginner’s knowledge of French (and by beginner’s, I mean absolutely zero French know-how, I still remember learning the phrase “Je suis de Doncaster” in one of my first classes…).

By graduation in 2016 I had vastly improved my knowledge of both French language and culture, with some of my French writing assessments equalling, and even surpassing my Spanish writing. I graduated with a First-Class honour’s degree and this became the foundation which I have since used to explore multiple career avenues.

Through the University of Stirling, I was able to complete a year as an English Language Assistant with the British Council in Tenerife upon graduating. I had two potential career paths I was interested in following, teaching or translation, and this allowed me the opportunity to trial run one. My professors at the University of Stirling also helped me apply for a scholarship to fund a research project while working with the British Council, an opportunity I surely wouldn’t have had otherwise. While I enjoyed my time immensely as an English Language Assistant and was offered to stay a further year, I ultimately decided to return to academia, and began a Masters in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow.

I continued with my original language pair, French and Spanish, while attending advanced translation and translation theory classes. Here, I was able to build on practices already learned in my Undergraduate course adding further translation theory, fully confident, not only in my ability to state where I’m from, but also pay attention to nuances within the French language, differences between French and English writing styles, becoming ever more confident in my own writing abilities and stylistic choices as a translator.

After completing my Master’s in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow, I started work as a Videogames Localisation Quality Assurance Tester, a really rather long title for what I actually did – play video games and make sure translations are error free and feel made for the target audience. It has been an excellent graduate role where I mainly work with likeminded people of a similar age group, in a fairly relaxed multicultural office environment with plenty of opportunities to practice my speaking skills (not that I ever feel like I do this enough). After beginning work as a Tester, I then combined my testing experience with my background in teaching and began training any new starts that came into the company. Following on from this, I moved onto Project Coordinating where I began coordinating the testers, as opposed to directly testing the videogames myself. Through this role, I further developed managerial, timekeeping, organisational and communication skills – all of which are highly coveted in the world of translation where Project Coordinators are always needed.

And so, we have arrived my present situation! I, like most everyone else, am currently at home, self-isolating, faced with the current global circumstances but, oddly enough, it is a time when we are all most connected, checking in with each other, doing those little things that have been neglected on our to-do list (like… say… writing an article for a blog) and where language skills are just as important as ever. Most recently I had the opportunity to translate a UN document from French into English as a volunteer while staying at home, interview for a potential role in Bordeaux, and I’m using this time to attempt to build up a freelance client base in the hopes of maybe, hopefully (fingers and toes crossed!) being able to translate as a Freelancer by the end of the year. And let’s not forget the most taxing at home activity of all – watching an abundance of French films and series as a vital means of continuing my exposure to the language, it’s a hard job but someone has to do it!

I do hope everyone is keeping safe in these tricky times and remember enjoy your time at the University of Stirling while you can, it’ll be over before you know it!’

Many, many thanks to Artie for taking the time to send us this fantastic blog post – I, for one, have learned things about the role of translation in gaming that I certainly didn’t know before! We hope all goes well with the client-base-building and we look forward to more updates in the future. In the meantime, stay well and stay safe.

Old dog, new tricks!

With the start of the new semester (and all good wishes to those enrolled on our wide range of French modules and programmes, and to our students off on Semester Abroad or working as Language Assistants…), it’s time to post a new profile of one of our French at Stirling graduates, Kerstin Rosée, who has sent us this great article:

2020 Jan Rosee EuroDisneyBonjour, mes amis! French has always been a part of my life, with a last name like mine, this is hardly a surprise. I knew how to spell out my last name to people before I could write it myself and I could confidently say accent aigu before ever attending a French class in my long history of attending French classes.

Language teaching in Germany (where I originally come from) used to be taken more seriously than in the UK. At least until the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland which put a new and enthusiastic emphasis on learning not one, but two foreign languages with many pupils now starting at primary school age. Going back to the 80s and 90s in Germany, English was introduced in 5th grade and in 7th grade you would pick another foreign language, usually a choice of either French or Latin. Why Latin? Well, in Germany to do any kind of degree in medicine, dentistry or veterinarian studies, you need at least your small Latinum (that’ll be 4 years of study) – makes sense if you consider that most of your textbooks will be full of Latin words. Since the thought of having to put down somebody’s pet guinea pig put me off veterinarian studies quite early, I decided to go for a more practical approach in studying French. Foreign holidays were beckoning and at that time I had already visited France with my family several times.

When the time came to pick a career and to think about what kind of training would be necessary, I found myself stumped by the idea that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grow up. I still don’t, and I’m getting the feeling that I’ll probably be retired before I figure out what I’ll do with my life.  But… I was good at English and French and ended up at an academy training to become a trilingual executive secretary, adding Spanish to my portfolio en route.

Sadly, the job I took after leaving the academy was with an American organization and while my English improved my French and Spanish were neglected. I missed the golden opportunity to spend my holidays in French and Spanish-speaking countries and along the lines of ‘use it or lose it’, well, I lost it.

In my late 20s I relocated to Scotland and, being armed with a good grasp of the language and a willingness to delve into the local lingo (thank you, guy at the chippy, you were my trial of fire), I continued in my field of work but suddenly minus the trilingual aspect. Why? Mostly because many people speak English anyway and there were very few jobs for people with language skills in the Central Belt unless you wanted to settle in call centres. I tried, I escaped.

Having dabbled in part-time study for a while, I finally started a full-time course at the University of Stirling: Primary Education with Modern Languages. The course was brand new to the university at the time and we were the willing guinea pigs together with a cohort studying Primary Education and Environmental Science. I had just turned 38 when I started my degree at Stirling and my daughter had just joined P1. Great, I thought, we’ll learn together. To cut a long story short: I did not end up being a teacher. It turned out that I really didn’t like the classroom. Unlike my new just-from-school study buddies, I loved the semesters and hated the placements; I loved the languages but never really warmed to the pedagogy. For myself, the mix of classes, lectures and tutorial groups in French were a winning combination. Grammar: the necessary evil. Passé simple you say? Yeah sure, it rings a bell. Spoken language with Bernadette, the Spoken Language Tutor at the time: simply hilarious. Lectures and culture tutorials opened a whole new world to me. A word of warning though – reading, writing and talking about 2nd wave French feminism may come with strange side effects if you are an adult returner, for instance: flares of anger and bursting out into tears.

I graduated in 2012 and, thanks to my last-minute degree change, I was the only student to graduate with a BA in French on that day amidst a sea of Education students. I cannot thank the BEd Primary Education cohort enough for my round of applause when I entered the stage while everybody else in the room probably wondered whether I had showed up on the wrong day.

Everybody’s question was: what next, then? I’ll be honest, if you are in your forties and tied to the Central Belt as a location, career prospects in Languages are somewhat limited. If you have done the Call Centre gig and have no intentions of ever returning to it and if you need to plan your workday around the school hours, it makes it just that little bit harder.

Will I be using French for work at some point in the future? Well, this brings us back to ‘use it or lose it.’  The sad thing is, if you don’t use your languages regularly, you will forget a lot of vocab and grammar. The silver lining is that it will be easier for you to pick it up again, every time you do pick it up again, as long as you have a decent foundation. My current exposure to French language and culture is singing along loudly to Les Misérables and Plastique Bertrand while scouring Netflix for French crime shows I can binge on. The beauty of Netflix is that it provides you with crutches; I love to listen to the original French actors but using English subtitles to make sure I don’t lose the plot (literally) but you could swap this around if your reading skills need to be honed.

To make matters worse, a certain referendum 4 years ago which is intent on ending our opportunities for free travel to work in any of 28 European countries without a lot of red tape may be a further deterrent for pupils to even consider modern languages as a subject for their university studies. Businesses may decide that the UK is no longer an attractive location for them and those precious few jobs that open up opportunities to graduates in modern languages may leave the country. I am still cautiously optimistic that Brexit will turn out to be undeliverable and we will all just forget about this embarrassing episode in recent UK history – I guess we’ll see.

2020 Jan Rosee BretagneIn the end, all is not as gloomy as it seems, and you must look for opportunity where it presents itself. My plans are to convince the family to holiday in Canada and spend some time in Québec: find out how different from metropolitan France it really is, sample some of the lifestyle and speak French, a lot of it, possibly very basic. After that, I might try to duplicate my experience of moving to Scotland and visit Bretagne – I was there on a holiday when I was 5 years old, armed with only once sentence: Je ne parle pas français!

Surely, it has to be better than that by now!’

Yes, we’re sure that it is! Many, many thanks to Kerstin for this great post and for the fantastic pictures of childhood holidays in France. And we wish you all the very best for travels to Quebec and to Brittany, and to many other Francophone locations beyond!

School in the Sunshine

Time abroad features in many way across our degrees and is a crucial part of language learning at University. As you’ll know from previous posts, some of our students undertake English Language Assistantships, some spend a semester on Study Abroad (Erasmus or otherwise), some do both… For students doing both French and Spanish, the situation becomes a little more complex because language residence needs to be fulfilled for both languages. Many students opt to do this by undertaking an ELA in one language area and Erasmus in the other but this doesn’t always work for everyone, for all sorts of reasons.

In those cases, our students choose one language area for the Semester Abroad and have to fulfil our minimum residence for the other language. We try to be as flexible as we can and the basic position is that this means the student needs to spend at least 4 weeks in a country where that other language is spoken before they graduate (not necessarily in one 4-week block). Because this is for a shorter period, funding is not available and our students find all kinds of different ways of fulfilling this requirement. In the past, this has meant everything from language schools to working as an au pair or nanny to finding internships.

Eilidh, who has just started the final year of her BA Hons in International Management with European Languages and Society, is one such student who has just finished off the last portions of her time abroad and has sent through the following post about her experience:

2019 Wynd pic III‘Between January and April of this year I spent a semester abroad in Pamplona, Spain. After this amazing experience, I had one more week left in France to fulfil my time abroad and complete my essential time abroad for my degree. After spending three weeks last year in Bordeaux, I decided to go to the South East of France and spend a week in Marseille. A week in 30 degree heat in the south of France and it qualifies for my university degree…it’s a hard life being a language student.

I had researched in depth my choices for language schools in France and I found the Ecole Internationale de Marseille and an ideal AirBnb just ten minutes’ walk away so it sounded perfect. Adding a direct flight from Glasgow to Marseille (unlike my 3 flights and a train to Bordeaux) I signed myself up and headed off.

In my class, I had a Russian couple, a Brazilian transfer student and 2 professors. We were all of the same ability and on the Monday morning, the professor wrote my least favourite word on the board…SUBJUNCTIVE. I could have cried as I have spent many a seminar with my girls and Jean-Michel DesJacques complaining about the subjunctive. Why is it needed? Does it really matter? Apparently it is important, so the professeurs of the Marseille school soon realised they had a problem on their hands with me. However, after some intensive classes and thousands of worksheets, I can safely say I understand the subjunctive. Round of applause s’il vous plait.

2019 Wynd Marseille Pic IEveryday, after class, I would try and explore a part of the city or go somewhere new. However this was sometimes difficult due to the heat and the smell of fresh bread and pains au chocolat were a slight distraction. A particular highlight was going to sunbathe and do my homework (or in reality, read my book) in the palace gardens which overlooks the old port. It was so picturesque and a great way to unwind after a stressful class.

 

Another highlight of my trip away was my walk up to Notre Dame de la Garde. At the top of one of the hills in Marseille, there is a golden statue of the Virgin Mary. The locals say it is so she can watch over the boats coming in and out of the old port and grant them a safe passage. It looks spectacular from every angle and can be seen from all over Marseille. On my final day I decided to walk up and see the church for myself. I didn’t plan this entirely well as it is quite far and very hot. Nevertheless I soldiered on and it was totally worth it. It was beautiful and I would really recommend it if anyone travels to Marseille.

Overall I had an incredible experience and the school were very supportive. I am hoping to go back to Marseille again and enjoy some more sunshine and seafood!’

2019 Wynd Marseille Pic II

Many, many thanks to Eilidh for the great blog post – loads of ideas here for future students looking for ways to make the most of their time abroad – and we wish you all the best for this final year!

 

‘Studying at Stirling inspired me to do translation’

It has been a hectic first half of semester so there’s been a bit of a lull on the blog but we’re now halfway through our mid-semester break and there’s a little bit more time to catch up with the backlog so, with apologies to the very kind and patient contributors, let’s go! First up, we have a post by Laura, who graduated in French and Spanish in 2015 and who has just completed a Masters at Glasgow, focusing on Translation Studies:

‘Well, it’s been an intense and really quick year, and I think studying for a Masters in Translation Studies has had something to do with it. As I have the chance to stop and look back at everything that’s just happened, I realise I wouldn’t have been doing all this if it wasn’t for the amazing experiences I had during my undergraduate course at Stirling. After all, it was thanks to my time there that I was encouraged to keep learning and practising languages. Here are the different things that inspired me…

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic II

Classes

The speaking practice I had in Langage Parlé encouraged me to want to keep practising. And if grammar hadn’t been made so interesting in classes, I would probably remember a lot less today. In the final year, we did a fair bit of translating, including newspaper articles – I always did quite well at it, so it made me realise I could take this area of language study further. Then, after having positive experiences of learning French and Spanish, I thought I would try my hand at something new for my postgraduate, and ended up doing Beginners Chinese as an option module. Tricky, but definitely worth it!

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic IAdventures

My semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France and year as a language assistant at a primary school in Spain also played a huge part in my decisions. This was where I really got to put language skills to use beyond the classroom (despite often being in classrooms), and have the chance to live everyday life in other countries. I met lovely people from all over the world and had lots of fun visiting new places, and going to many a cultural event. How could I not want to keep using different languages?

Friends

I have lots of great memories with friends I made while studying at Stirling, and it’s always nice to catch up and reminisce with those I still keep in touch with. We’re all doing different things, ranging from teaching to working with animals, but our studies and time spent at Stirling led us to the paths we’re on, whether the influence is obvious or not. Two of my friends at Glasgow had actually studied at Stirling as well, but had been in a different year from me before, so that was a nice surprise and something extra in common.

2018 MacFarlane Masters Translation Pic IVFrench at Stirling

I previously wrote a review on a Celtic Connections concert for French at Stirling. Then after graduating, I ended up e-mailing the festival to see if there were any opportunities to use language skills. As a result, I volunteered there and got to do Spanish speaking for a band from Galicia. Also, as part of my Masters dissertation (which I was delighted to hand in!) I translated articles from a Spanish music magazine, so was able to use my passion for music when translating. I think writing the review made me think a bit more about how I could combine languages with music, and I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to achieve that.

It’s been an amazing and worthwhile experience doing a Masters at Glasgow, providing me with an ideal mix of theory and practice. But my time at Stirling will always be special to me, from the scenery and the loch, to the super language department. Now, enough nostalgia – it’s time to look to the future and see what lies ahead … I would love to keep translating, and I am considering working freelance as well as part-time in a wonderful library. My dream would be to keep mixing languages with music, and do translation for events or media. I’ve helped out with Havana/Glasgow Film Festival for a few years, so I know that I enjoy working with festivals. And finally, even though I focussed on Spanish to English translation, I’d love to keep up my French (bien sûr!) and translate out of that too.

Merci beaucoup!’

And merci to Laura, too, for this great post and all our good wishes for the future – keep us posted!

Unexpected directions

As ever, the blog is a little quieter over the Summer months but I’m determined to post a few articles, as and when they make their way to me so today it’s a chance to catch up with Chris who graduated a few years back now and whose career has taken him in rather unexpected directions since then:

‘It is hard to believe that it is seven years since I graduated from the French Department with the degree in International Management and Intercultural Studies. This programme was what drew me to Stirling – it was unusual in that it offered the chance to go to Strasbourg and get a Masters from a top French Business School.

2018 Chris Ball Photo 1 Jul18Following my time in Strasbourg, the opportunity came up to do a funded PhD which, although I had never been sure about what direction I would take following my Masters, felt like the right path for me. I came back to Stirling, because I really wanted to work with a lecturer who had taught me during my undergraduate time. My PhD looked at energy policies and green entrepreneurship in Britain, France and Germany, so I still used my French skills and conducted research in France as well as in the two other countries. During my PhD studies, I also did a stint teaching French at Stirling which I really enjoyed but I found very challenging, especially teaching things like direct and indirect objects to students fresh from school. It was fascinating to see it from the other side.

For the past two years, my life has taken a different direction. I have moved to Germany and started working in a research institution called Forschungszentrum Jülich, near Cologne, and I currently do research on the economic aspects of Germany’s energy policy. Although I already spoke German quite well, I have loved improving my German and becoming familiar with a new country. The skills I learned during my programme in the French department, involving a lot of time abroad, helped enormously with adapting to the new country and new language.

2018 Chris Ball Photo 2 Jul18

I still get to use my French quite regularly. The city in which I now live, Aachen, is on the Belgian border and close to Paris (two hours by train), so I am in the French-speaking world quite often. I also organise the French “Stammtisch” at work – it is a table of French speakers who meet once a week to have lunch, so that helps me to “keep my hand in” with the French.

When I reflect back on my time at Stirling, I have fond memories of the French Department. It was through the support of the department that I had the opportunity to do the Carnegie and Stevenson mini research scholarships which were very useful to my growth. I found studying contemporary Francophone culture broadened my awareness of different identities in the French speaking world. What I am doing now is quite different to what I did before and that is exciting – I would say that a key thing is to be adaptable and able to learn new skills and I felt that my degree at Stirling was a very good background for this.’

Many thanks (merci, vielen Dank!) to Chris for the update – it’s great to think there’s a Stirling-influenced Stammtisch meeting every week in Jülich! We look forward to finding out where the next few years will take you…

Textbook problems…

As well as conferences and study days and the like, the summer months are also a time for preparing new classes, writing lectures, revising coursepacks, ordering new textbooks… Not always plain sailing as our Language Coordinator, Jean-Michel DesJacques, explains:

“J-1! Ah! Le soleil, les vacances, le verre de rosé le soir à la fraiche. Sauf que… en fait d’apéro, déboires à gogo! We need to talk about “the textbook”.  Have you heard of the curious legal incident in a faraway land?

Tout a commencé par un courriel anodin: “We wish to inform that there will be a substantial increase in some of the print textbooks that you have chosen” (US Supreme Court ruling Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons for those, if any, who wish to know). How lucky of me to have chosen a textbook whose sale price had to be discussed by the US Supreme Court. A few weeks later, I received another email saying that ‘my’ textbook was still available of course but it would cost £111.

I know, odd number, who would buy a book for that price I asked myself. Some students could be deterred from signing up to French for beginners, missing out on a potential lifelong love affair with the language. The timing of the decision was rather unfortunate: language tutors would tell you that a new textbook is a decision you make a good 6 months prior to the start of teaching so that you can reorganize your course accordingly. I certainly felt that I had done everything I could: I had met with the company’s representatives before teaching started in February and organized the purchase of the textbook with the added bonus of a range of on-line activities in the format of a virtual lab. A true example of blended learning, a combination of traditional methods combined with new technology, on which we pride ourselves at Stirling. The perfect mix!

What now? Well, I suppose I could go back to the previous edition which is still available at a reasonable price. I know conjugations and grammatical structures will be the same, but should I run the risk of having students who believe that M. Sarkozy is still president? And dare I mention Gérard Depardieu?

Dear beginners, fear not! You will have a textbook worthy of your efforts next semester. Remember, it’s an intensive course so I shall keep you busy and well prepared to eventually join the mainstream with the ultimate goal of studying at a Francophone university for a semester in 3rd year (we have partners in France, Canada, Morocco and Switzerland) and maybe spending a whole year working as a Language Assistant. A worthy reward.

À bientôt!”